IDW Publishing: Spotlight Orion Pax "Omega's Conundrum" Comic Book Review
Title: "Omega's Conundrum"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: December 12, 2012
Written by: John Barber
Pencils by: Steve Kurth
Inks by: Juan Castro
Colors by: J. Aburtov & Graphikslava
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: John Barber
Editorial Assistant: Thomas Boeing
Inside Wheeljack's lab, Orion Pax has received a new body - specifically designed for the mission ahead (minus his mouthplate, much to his regret). Under the order of Zeta Prime, Orion is to take Decepticon prisoners and exchange them for the captured Chief Medical Officer Ratchet. Unfortunately, this mission will take the Autobots into The Rust Spot a dangerous area of Cybertron that isn't even mapped properly. To house the Decepticons in the exchange, a special trailer has been built for Orion to tow. Since the area is so treacherous, an expert has been called in to guide the Autobots: Alpha Trion! From his days of mapping Cybertron with Metroplex, he has a solid knowledge of the area and will act as a guide through the treacherous terrain. Also accompanying Orion will be Nightbeat.
When the Autobots reach the area, they find themselves attacked by the "Slicers", dangerous robots who attack without provocation. They manage to take them down, but in the process the trailer has been ripped open. Fortunately, the two prisoners don't make a run for it. They are revealed to be "Rack" and "Ruin", twin Transformers, both with Decepticon logo prominently displayed. Despite this, they don't want to go back to the Decepticons as they fear Megatron will kill them for their failures in battle. Before any decisions can be made, Thundercracker arrives with two other Seekers to escort the Autobots back to the Decepticon stronghold.
At the Decepticon base, the Autobots are surrounded by dozens of Decepticons. Megatron is not there, but Bludgeon is! He reveals his plan was to capture Alpha Trion all along, with the intention of using him to get to Metroplex! Orion has other ideas however and quickly reveals weapons inside the trailer. As the Autobots fight their way out (aided by Rack and Ruin), Orion covers their escape but winds up getting captured in the process.
While the other Autobots have escaped, Orion finds himself strapped to a ship. Bludgeon intends to send him and the ship crashing into the nearest settlement, killing him and causing lots of destruction. Once the shuttle launches, Orion quickly finds a way to transform out of his bonds and damages the shuttle, sending it off course and crashing into a remote part of Cybertron. When he recovers from the crash, scarred up and damaged, he finds a single metal plate and happily puts it over his mouth.
The return of the "Spotlight" series of one shot comic books to "Transformers" is great news. Since it took over the "Transformers" comic book license several years ago, IDW has focused heavily on arc based storylines. Having these nice, self contained stories is always a pleasure in my book. This issue is a great return to form for the series. This story is nice and tight and works together nicely. It manages to reference (both through characters and dialogue) events in other IDW Universe "Transformers" tales without focusing heavily on them. It also gives us a look at a "never before told" story. This helps provide a story that's instantly accessible and doesn't require tons of back story to enjoy.
The story itself is a fairly simple set up: a hostage exchange that goes wrong resulting in our hero Orion Pax being stuck in a very precarious situation by the end. It's a fun set up and for a while, I was hoping that there was something special about Rack and Ruin that would result in them combining (something dialogue even hints at) but instead it turns out Trion was the target all along (which makes perfect sense). I did appreciate Orion's bravado. This was not the Optimus Prime we would come to know later (who repeatedly got his tail kicked around in the IDW universe), this is a proud and able warrior that is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. His "young" nature was even reflected a bit in his design which echoes the design from "Transformers Animated", which was perhaps the most "immature" of the Optimus Primes we've had in various continuities. Orion really does shine here and he never misses a step from beginning to end. It's great to see the character as a full on hero (as opposed to the tortured hero, the emo hero, the hero who gets his skidplate handed to him by Megatron etc.). He saves the day a couple of times and it's a joy to see.
There's a ton of fun references in this to both other "Transformers" stories and general pop culture. Rung offering Orion "self help" books was hilarious and other call backs such as the "Diaclona Tribe" (referring to the "Diaclone" toys that predated "Transformers") and Trion referring to Transformers having "99 points of articulation" (a reference to how many points a typical Transformers action figure can move). There's also some subtle hints of future storylines, such as Zeta Prime saying "Just Zeta?" as if he expects to be addressed more formally, even by a friend (hinting at his later madness in "Autocracy"). There are also some visual gags as well. Perhaps one of the funniest is Alpha Trion's vehicle mode which is basically The Batmobile "Tumbler" vehicle in purple! Add to that Trion's "cape" and ability to fight hand-to-hand and he basically became the "Transformers" version of Batman for this issue. Silly, yes, but fun. In another, the design of Orion's trailer seems to echo the design of the current "Bot Shots" Optimus Prime "Launcher" trailer.
The artwork in this issue was divided between pencils and inks by Steve Kurth and Juan Castro respectively. They're not among the "regulars" of "Transformers" art such as Milne or Roche yet, but I would definitely like to see more work by them in the future. Kurth's style is very reminscent of some of the later work to come out of the Marvel Generation One era, and I mean that as a compliment. His artwork looks like it could be animated easily. It's not overly fussy or crowded. He makes great use of space and perspective, helping to give Cybertron a sweeping feeling. He does on occasion warp his perspective a bit, especially where vehicle modes are concerned, but it's hardly a deal breaker. The inking and color are strong in this issue, with just the right amount of strength in the lines on each figure to create a "clean" or "gritty" look as required by the panels. What did strike me was how bright the coloring was overall, even in the "Rust Spot" and the Decepticon base. It was very refreshing and visually appealing. Great work!
This isn't a heavy duty story. Instead, it's a fun romp in the "Transformers" universe and shows us a good old fashioned "Autobots vs Decepticon" story without piles of ambiguity (just a bit). A fun read even if you're not following the main books.